Euthanasia- Meaning and types



Euthanasia means killing someone for their good. The purpose of euthanasia is to deliberately end someone’s life in order to bring relief to the patient and to his/her family. This paper aims to discuss about meaning of euthanasia, different types of euthanasia and very important case law in accordance to euthanasia.


It is a Greek word in which Eu means good/well and Thanatos means death. Euthanasia means mercy killing. It means action in which a person is unintentionally killed or allowed to die because it is believed that individual would be better off death. It is a manner in which a person is painlessly put to death. A very good example would be case of an irreversible coma i.e brain dead state or vegetative state where there are no chances of revival.

So, it means good death or dying well. Basically, it means to end someone’s life and release the person from pain and suffering.

It is also known as mercy killing, as it is seen as a call for mercy for terminally ill patients.

When a person is suffering from a disease which is incurable, the medical equipment or any other thing which was keeping person alive is removed so person dies and do not need to suffer any more.

There needs to be concern of family member or relative. It is not lawful in India.

In the case of Gian Kaur VS State of Punjab it was held that right to live do not include right to not live i.e right to die. And so euthanasia was declared illegal in India.


1)Active Euthanasia

  • When someone’s life is directly ended by doctor, it is active euthanasia.
  • The court defined active euthanasia as “a positive act or affirmative action of act of commission entailing the use of lethal substances or forces to cause the intentional death of a person by direct intervention”.
  • For example, a lethal injection given to a person who is suffering from terminal cancer.
  • It means when a person is suffering from terrible pain, the doctor intentionally ends the patient’s life by directly giving them harmful or destructive substance.

2)Passive Euthanasia

  • It is also known as negative or non-aggressive euthanasia.
  • It means withholding of medical treatment which is necessary for continuance of life or you can even say by not doing something which is necessary to keep a person alive.
  • For example, turning off ventilator or not giving antibiotics where patient is likely to die without it.
  • It is legal in India. But one needs to have approval of high court of concerned state.

This decision was taken after the case of Aruna Shanbaug.

3)Voluntary Euthanasia

  • When the person request to end one’s life in painless manner. For example, when a patient is suffering from untreatable diseases request to end his/her life.
  • But there needs to be patient’s concern and will, it is mandatory.
  • It is legal in Canada, Colombia, Netherland and Belgium.

4)In-voluntary Euthanasia

  • When person’s consent is missing but still euthanasia is performed on him/her, that is against will.
  • It is illegal in all the countries and it is equal to kill someone purposely or can be also termed as murder.

5)Non-Voluntary Euthanasia

  • When the patient’s concern is missing or unavailable because he/she is unable to indicate or is unconscious to say he or she wants to undergo euthanasia or not.
  • For example, a person who is adult have permanently loss consciousness or an infant, they can’t give concern due to their condition.
  • It is illegal in all the countries.



Aruna Shanbaug was a nurse who was working at KEM hospital in Mumbai where she was sexually assaulted by a worker in 1973.

During the attack, Shanbaug was strangled with chain as a result the oxygen level was reduced which lead to vegetative state. She totally lost her body control, she was unable to move her hands and legs , she wasn’t able to eat by herself or go to washroom.

After this she was treated in the same KEM hospital for 48 years, even her family members left her alone over there the nurses took her care and in 2015 she died.

In 2009, there was a journalist named Pinki Virani who filed a petition in supreme court on behalf of Aruna Shanbaug.

Pinki Virani said Aruna Shanbaug deserves euthanasia as living in such a condition for 40 years is violating her right to live with dignity.

In 2011, the Supreme Court legalized passive euthanasia in India but the decision to end the life lies in the hands of parents, spouse or close relatives, or in absences of them, by a “close friend”.

But in this case Pinki Virani was not considered as close friend, court said the nurse have been taking care since 40 years so they have right to decide whether to give her euthanasia or not.

The nurse declined to this stating we don’t want to give passive euthanasia we have been taking care for 40 years and we will keep on doing it further too.

Aruna Shanbaug was not given passive euthanasia but after this case the concept of “Passive Euthanasia” was introduced and supreme court said that anyone who wishes to have passive euthanasia can have it after the approval of concerned High Court

Author: Krupa Chauhan,
Navrachna University

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